Postscript: A Loving Farewell to Charlestown Mini Super’s Beloved Lunch Buffet | Guest columns
In the end, and this is probably the end, the loss is small potatoes compared to what the pandemic has caused.
Still, a stranger, perhaps a first-time vacationer, wouldn’t know what the best time of day had been at the Charlestown Mini Super on Old Post Road.
It was then that, for years, the salad and sandwich bar and hot food buffet were deployed for the midday crowds – work crews, construction workers, summer visitors, year round residents. and especially the elderly, who like Charlie Beck, co-owner of the market, said the other day, loved the spread and made dinner from lunch.
COVID killed him better than a year and a half ago, under federal and state bans on open food trays to the public, and Beck, who credits his brother and co-owner, Tim Beck, with creating the menu, which changes daily, does not plan to return, at least not the hot food buffet.
The Charlestown Mini Super is just that – a comfortably sized grocery store from a previous generation, with bakery displays, cold drinks and prepared foods in display cases, freezers, produce bins and deli counters and lavishly stocked and highly touted meat and seafood. canned goods, non-perishables and housewares, newspapers and magazines, and usually a single line of customers waiting to checkout as they inhale the aromas of pizza, pastries and various other sweet delicacies prepared in store leading to cash registers.
And just beyond where the baked goods are and the queue is now one must imagine, or remember, carts loaded with breads, cold cuts and cheeses, condiments and a salad bar where customers prepared their own lunches or, indeed, dinners.
Then browse the adjacent hot food buffet.
On Mondays there would be American chop suey and pork chops or oven-fried ham and beans, Swedish meatballs, pasta with gravy and hot dogs. The soup of the day was minestrone.
On Tuesdays there were tacos and toppings, fried chicken, hot dogs, and chicken noodle soup.
Come on Wednesdays, out in the oven were ziti or chicken parmesan, meatballs in sauce, pasta in sauce, shepherd’s pie, hot dogs or chicken sausages. For soup, spinach tortellini or cream soups.
For Thursday, count on “Grandmother Vince” Italian chicken, sausage and peppers, kielbasa and potatoes, macaroni and cheese and beef soup with vegetables.
Finally, on Friday, dinner of meatloaf with carrots or green beans, potatoes and sauce. The Soup: “Our own ‘famous’ fish chowder. “
Maybe, Charlie Beck said, the grocery store will bring back the soup and the sandwich (and the calzones) and the salad bar if health regulations allow, but reinstate the hot food buffet, which began around 2006, unlikely, in part, he added, because finding more reliable help is a problem.
He says he employs around 30 people during the summer and 20 during the winter.
“I’ve had people here for 30 years. We had a very good staff. We were lucky, ”said Beck, who was a social worker in upstate New York before he and his brother took over the grocery store in 1981. Beck is also a veteran of the grocery store. Charlestown politician as a member of city council and chairman of the board as well as city moderator. The Mini Super had been in business since the early 1970s and prior to that, the premises were the site of Browning’s general store.
Over the Labor Day weekend when I pulled up the Mini Super, like every other grocery store, of course, was hopping. The vibe was, for lack of a better word, intimate, local grocery store style, even though the number plates on the front were literally all over the map. Charlestown’s population, perhaps 8,000 a year, easily triples during the summer.
The market attracts customers, over the course of a year, within a 5 to 7 mile radius, Beck said, and coexists with a few other local markets sandwiched between Wakefield and Westerly.
Large supermarkets and specialty markets in the area have large stocks of store-prepared packaged foods and some have restored hot buffets. But there are hot buffets and take out counters and there was noon at the Charlestown Mini Super.
So recently, at Mini Super, there was a time when buying a sandwich meant the chance to have it exactly the way you liked it and make it yourself.
Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime journalist and columnist. He can be contacted at [email protected]